This is an essay on the history of the Jewish community in Reichenbach (Eulengebirge) which until the end of the Second World War, in 1945, was a Prussian then a German town and with its downfall was annexed to Poland, named Rychbach and later, Dzierżoniów. Geographically, the town was located in Silesia which until the First World War was divided between two nearby Regencies: Breslau and Liegnitz, and another on their east, Oppolen.
In 1919 these territories were divided into two provinces: Lower Silesia, which included Breslau, with Reichenbach and Liegnitz, and Upper Silesia with Oppolen. In the wake of citizen rebellions and a referendum in Silesia, in 1922, the eastern part of Upper Silesia was transferred to Poland. The names of both provinces referred to their location along the Oder River.
The Jewish community in Reichenbach existed actually for about 126 years (between the years 1816 through 1942), and its size never reached more than 190 people and relative to the general population it constituted a very small percentage. On the map of the Jewish communities in Prussia and later in Germany, Reichenbach was indeed a small dot of a settlement. Back then, and for generations to come, the biggest and leading community, and relatively in Germany as well, was Breslau, the capital city of the province. The numeric rate between Reichenbach's Jews and the general population of the town was mostly similar to the general trend across Silesia: in the years 1816–1880 the proportion of Jews moved from 0.3% to 1.8%; the highest rate was in Breslau, and in the final decades of the 19th century it was 1.2% to 1.6%, and in 1905 it even reached 4.7%[1.1]. After those days Reichenbach's Jewish population gradually decreased.
Despite its relatively modest size, certain characteristics which constitute this article's essence, set the town apart from bigger communities. In order to understand this we have to notice the State regimes that ruled during the more than the century discussed here: the Kingdom of Prussia until 1871, the unified German Empire until 1918, the German Republic until 1933 and the Nazi State until 1945. During these periods significant political and economic processes took place with specific and tragic ramifications in the last twelve years under Nazi rule. It initially resulted in leaving the town and during the Second World War in the extermination of the few who remained. The fact that the town itself was not affected during the war, made it at the end the immediate basis for a new settlement of the thousands of Jews who survived the Holocaust.
The essay is based on archival and published sources together with personal recollections which shed a particular light on some well known events.
"The First Jews"
Information regarding Jews in Reichenbach was recorded ever since the 13th century, although for hundreds of centuries it was mostly businessmen and traders visiting the town who were not permitted to settle permanently. This was evident in the existence of the Jewish alley, the Judengasse, from the beginning of the 17th until the mid 20th century. Ever since the end of the 18th century it was primarily Jews working in the wool industry that started to visit the town from other regions in Prussia and Austria. In those days the fabric industry became the economic basis for that whole area, and in time, during the 19th century, it would become the center of all of Silesia's textile industry.
It was only after the emancipation decree, in March 1812 that Jews across the Kingdom of Prussia were granted last names and equal rights to their Christian neighbors, including the freedom to purchase land and to work in various professions. Since those days, Jews started to gather in big communities (e.g. Breslau) and later on in smaller communities too. The first permits were granted to Jews who already possessed permits of residence in other towns. That was the start of the permanent Jewish settlement in Reichenbach. In January 1816, a permit was granted to the trader Isaac Naftali and his family from Breslau before he was granted local citizenship. A year later three more Jews were granted residence in gratitude for their economic support to the town. A year later Naftali and a fellow Jew were allowed to purchase land for burial purposes. Another Jew was also given permission for a different site, which in 1825 was designated and dedicated as a Jewish cemetery[1.2]. At that time the site was next to the town's northern gate (Breslauer Tor), and today it is located at the Bielawska and Szpitalna streets.
In 1819, the eighteen town Jews united into an established community, with Wilhelm Landsberg elected as the first manager (Gabbai) of the synagogue, followed by Pinkus Baad and Meyer Olsner. During their tenure the community expanded and it was greatly influenced by what was going on in the larger community of Breslau, where a bitter dispute erupted between the traditional, orthodox believers and those who believed in a revival and an open-minded approach to religious matters. The reformists were influenced by the spirit of the Enlightenment Movement which was spreading across Prussia.
In 1820, Breslau's community leaders decided to set up a synagogue, raised the funds and chose a location where previously there had been a tavern bearing the unique name, 'Pod Białym Bocianem' ('The White Stork'), which they adopted as the name of the synagogue. Internal disagreements led to the suspension of the construction work for seven years. It was then completed in two years by a group of Jews with a progressive perspective, the 'First Society of Brothers'. However, over the next 18 years it functioned as the Society’s private synagogue and only in 1847 did the synagogue open its doors to the entire Breslau Jewish community. It turned out that the old disagreements remained probably firm for many years as there was no other option, in 1872, but to establish another synagogue this time named, 'Die Neue Synagoge' ('The New Synagogue') which became the prayer house of the reformists, while the more orthodox retained the old synagogue, 'The White Stork'.
This long-standing dispute in Breslau that reflected the schism within the local Jewish community, characterized in those days by the events in many communities in Prussia. It was then that the orthodox congregations found themselves quarreling with the proponents of the new era, the reformists, who tended to identify with Christian state values and become assimilated.
Things looked similar in Reichenbach, the town located around 50 kilometers south of Breslau. After Meyer Olsner left the community in 1841, it found itself divided: the orthodox faction was headed by Abraham Breslauer, while the reformists were led by the Rabbi and teacher Heinrich Schwartz, who arrived from Rawicz, a town in the region of Poznań. Identifying himself with the ideological principles of the Enlightenment Movement, he decided to introduce in his congregation – as had occurred in many places in Prussia – the usage of the German language in the ritual customs, in Jewish education, and to preach homilies in German as was customary in Christian sermons.
In 1854 Schwartz composed a special German-language liberal prayer book (Siddur) in the German language: Poems and Psalms for the Holy Worship of Reichenbach's Jewish Community in Silesia[1.3]. Schwartz stayed in his position for another five years while his rival, Abraham Breslauer, had left in 1852.
It should be noted that before the Jewish settlement in Reichenbach was officially recognized, a prayer house had existed since 1811: "Souveräner Malteser Orden" (The Malta Military Sovereign Order)[1.4] sold buildings to the Jews for the purpose of setting up a synagogue, spinning mill, printing house and storage facility. The prayer house was named "The Old Synagogue". Since 1834, a prayer room (Bethsaal) was located at the house of a carpenter named Gottfried Klinkhardt, on Breslaustrasse 162. It was set up by Mattias Isaac Cohn, who donated the vestry and Torah Roll. That prayer room came to be known as "The New Synagogue" and served the entire community until 1873, when it was mentioned as a prayer house (Bethaus) that was already too small to continue to serve the increasing number of Jews[1.5].
As synagogues, or meeting places, they were determined both as prayer rooms (Bethsaal) owned by municipalities or rented, as well as stand-alone buildings, houses of prayer (Bethaus), which could introduce some confusion within the meaning of Jewish communities. An example of such inaccuracy is the list of 1843, prepared by the office of the Breslau Regency, which did not show the existence of a synagogue in Reichenbach, although according to many sources, prayers were held in private rented rooms. This could be due to the fact that synagogues served different functions, and prayer rooms determined also names as a school-spot study of the Torah and Talmud, school prayer, a house of learning[1.6].
Mattias was granted Prussian citizenship in 1826, being recommended by the local authorities who stated that he: "was displaying kindness and humanity, had a big heart and generally conquered our hearts more and more with his positive character, his attention and love towards others, particularly because of the absence of those characteristics amid most of his people". Mattias helped to pay the war debts that were weighing on the town[1.7]. The unhidden anti-Semitic tone in the final clause of the praise was an echo of that phenomenon in Prussian society.
Despite the existence and activity for years, the Jewish community in Reichenbach was formally founded in 1834, and only received government certification in 1847. According to the Prussian law of that year which defined the geographical division of the Jewish communities in Lower Silesia, 10 communities were in the Breslau region, including Reichenbach, and 7 in the Liegnitz region. The certificate was required to allow independent activities of the community and depended on population growth. Reichenbach witnessed a steady increase for five decades: in 1819 the Jews numbered 18, in 1840 the number reached 59, and in 1849 it was 78. The community would reach its highest in 1871, with 185 resident Jews[1.8].
And yet, in February 1859, due to its relative numeric size, the Jewish community in Reichenbach was subordinated to the bigger community in Schweidnitz, where decisions regarding the community's activities were made. Nevertheless, three independent Jewish associations were active in Reichenbach in matters of support of the poor, the sick and for funerals.
The division between the Reform and Orthodox Jews continued during these years and these community matters were commented on in the local press. On the other hand, the Jews also identified with their Christian neighbors’ festivities. The year 1859 marked the 700th anniversary of the existence of St. George, the town's Catholic Church, and the Jewish residents decorated their houses, a gesture the local press noticed as "solid evidence of assimilation and agreement"[1.9]. In general, events important to the authorities were celebrated in churches and synagogues alike.
In October 1859, a new era began in the life of the Jewish community in Reichenbach: after years of separate perspectives and attitudes, the two camps decided to reunite, accepting in principle the reformists’ stand. The united community leaders decided to invite Rabbi Moritz Cohn, also from the town of Rawicz, to lead the community as a rabbi, religious teacher, cantor, and slaughterer. This nomination consolidated both the Jewish community inwards and its steady status outwards towards the wider German society. With his common sense, moderate views, open and thoughtful attitude, Rabbi Cohn succeeded in mediating prejudices and personal rivalries, and in strengthening the Jewish community's loose bands of unity. His approach in the community found its expressions in the 'Synagogue Regulations' which was published on 18 May 1863. It was evident that a lot of thought was invested in order to reflect the reconciliation and tolerance Rabbi Cohn wished to transmit to his congregation. The document was signed by three Board Members, Yaakov Naftali, Lippmann Brann, and S. Oelsner.
The Regulations contained 19 clauses of "Do's and Don'ts" in the synagogue. In its introduction, members of the congregation were required to accept and act immediately to implement them. For instance:
The Board has the right to confirm, at certain times, only the entrance of people into the synagogue who had purchased tickets in advance (Clause 2);
- Whoever interrupts the prayers could be kicked out (Clause 7);
- To fulfill commandments such as the Torah Reading or the opening of the Holy Ark, you require a card from the Board (Clause 11);
- Anyone who takes part in the Shabbat commandments and Jewish festivals must wear a hat or a skullcap; on Yom Kippur men could wear a white skullcap (Clause 12);
- Whenever the Holy Ark is opened the audience must stand; on Yom Kippur it is not obligatory (Clause 13);
- A memorial service is performed in accordance with the Orthodox practice and followed by a sermon (Clause 17);
- Prayer poetry is limited by the Rabbi to selected segments posted in advance on a bulletin board (Clause 19).
The addendum to the Regulations was signed by Rabbi Moritz Cohn:
"The Synagogue Regulations... are not intended to change Judaism, it is not something that should be imposed on the ancient and lofty customs of our religion, but reflects practices which were hitherto neglected in many synagogues. The Board has consulted me about the wording of these Regulations and I hope that this practice will not hurt in any way any devout member of our community."[1.10]
The title with which Rabbi Cohn signed this document was not 'Rabbi' but rather 'Jewish Preacher'. He could be called also the 'Cult Official', as the terminology adopted from German became increasingly common among Jews: a synagogue was named the "House of Prayer", "Israelite" replaced "Jew", and the Bar-Mitzvah ceremony was now an "admission" to the congregation. As was common in the Christian churches, men, women and children were no longer separated in the synagogue; except in special cases the community members were not required to cover their heads with a yarmulke, and the community carols were performed in German. It was decided to allow the synagogue to be entered with shoes or boots on, which could be replaced with velvet slippers, as done in the past. The Orthodox version of The Mourner's Kaddish, however, remained in force and was respected beside the grave. The feelings of the Orthodox members were honored, although it was expected that they would keep their Jewish practices privately in the synagogue[1.11]. The slogan of the Hebrew poet Judah Leib Gordon, "Be a man walking out and a Jew in your tent", became a reality in Reichenbach as across the whole of Prussia.
This was one of the characteristics of assimilation. Another was the adoption of Christian German first names. In the years after the 1860's many of the Reichenbach newborns were given such names – Georg, Frederick, Edward, etc. – as did Rabbi Cohn with his four children, Julius, Theodor, Martin, and Malwine. The birth documents found in the synagogue revealed that the official first name was always followed by the Jewish name. But Rabbi Cohn's name was recorded with his first Jewish name[1.12].
The life stories of his children exemplified the duality of German Jews’ life since the mid 19th century onward. Julius Cohn enlisted in the Prussian Army, took part in its war against France and fell in battle in the summer of 1870; the young Theodor migrated to England and his fate was unknown; and Malwine was killed in a concentration camp during the Second World War. Martin's story, on the other hand, is an exceptional that testifies to what might occur within the family of a distinguished rabbi who was a celebrity in his town.
As a child Martin studied at the Lutheran school in Reichenbach, as the Catholic schools were closed to the Jews and the small community did not own a school. The religious classes Rabbi Cohn delivered in the synagogue. Sometime after graduating high school, in 1887, Martin left Reichenbach for Berlin, returning to visit his parents from time to time. He made up his mind to leave his Jewish past behind him and in Berlin he attended academic studies and for some time served in the army.
In 1906 he migrated to Canada and three years later, at the age of 41, he changed his last name to Nordegg. He was engaged in coal mining in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Western Canada. Together with a German company he owned a coal mine, and the nearby coal mining town was named Nordegg after him. During the First World War, Canada nationalized German assets and Martin was forced to leave and he moved to New York. After the war he was allowed to return but by then he had already lost his position in the coal mine. Even though mining ended there a century ago, the ‘ghost’ town of Nordegg still exists as a tourist attraction.
Martin turned to other businesses and with his wife traveled extensively throughout Europe and the world. In the summer of 1924, at the request of his sister Malwine, who lived in Hamburg, they traveled to Reichenbach for the first time since he had left it 37 years before. They paid a visit to their mother Augusta’s grave in the Jewish cemetery and then went to the synagogue where Martin had got his first education in Judaism. But now he refused to enter the synagogue and, unlike his sister, he was reluctant to meet an old acquaintance from high school. "Martin was glad to run away from Reichenbach leaving behind him his ambivalent memories"[1.13].
Unlike his children, Rabbi Moritz Cohn was rooted in Reichenbach society, admired by his flock and accepted by other religious leaders. After Prussia's military victory over France in 1871 and the establishment of the unified German Empire by Otto von Bismarck, in Reichenbach, as elsewhere, festive ceremonies took place praising the homeland, in which heads of the Protestantic and the Catholic Churches as well as Rabbi Cohn, representing the Jewish community, participated.
In June 1873, a laying corner stone ceremony for the reconstruction of the Town Hall Tower ("Ratusz")[1.14] took place. In the parade of town and religious community dignitaries it was noted that Rabbi Cohn represented the Jewish community. In his speech to the gathered audience he said:
"As the representative of the Jewish community, I am here at the laying corner stone: of the happiness and glory for our only German homeland, happiness and glory for our priceless Silesian province, happiness and glory for our beloved town. May the ties of consent and peace encompass the residents"[1.15].
One of the most important events for Jews was the legislation of a new municipal law in 1875 which dealt with civil rights. It permitted anyone over the age of 24 who had lived a year in the town and paid taxes to vote and to be elected to the local council. Similar rights had already existed in Breslau for half a century. Whereas the provisions were associated with socio-economic status, it also increased the potential of Jews to be elected. Indeed, three Jews were elected: the merchant Michaelis Moser and the Town Council members, Heymann Cohn and Max Hermstadt, a doctor by profession[1.1.9].
Alongside this, since the mid 19th century, the Jewish community leaders in Reichenbach had worked to preserve the Jewish heritage and inspiration that was most important to them. The Decree of Emancipation, in March 1812, allowed public education for young Jews, like their gentile neighbors. In 1873, among 271 students in the Boys’ High School, 195 were Protestants, 54 Catholics and 22 Jews. They also studied Judaism with the community Rabbi. The girls attended the women’s school in the boarding house of Berthy Ritter. Among 61 students, 41 were Protestants, 17 Jews, and only 3 Catholics[1.1.15]. The high percentage of Jewish students, 8% of boys and 28% of girls in this period, which relative to their number in the general population amounted to 2.8%, shows the great importance Jews attributed to education and learning as an inevitable phase of their integration into German society.
In order to realize that tendency, the community expressed its desire to set up a Jewish school in the town. In 1868, community representatives Meyer Wartenberg and Heymann Cohn submitted this request. The authorities rejected the request, but instead offered a piece of land which in the past had belonged to a weaver of fabrics by the Franc Gate at the town walls and now was for sale to the Jewish community for the purpose of setting up a synagogue[1.16]. The proposal was designated to serve the education goals of the community as well as its ritual needs. The community accepted the idea as the location was central, the Trenkstrasse, on the route between the railway station and the town square.
Only in 1874, was it possible to implement the design and construction of the building. Without the involvement and support of Heymann Cohn, Meyer Wartenberg and Lippmann Brann, the project would not have been realized. The planning and implementation was given to the well known town architect and contractor Ewald Böttger. The internal construction and its equipment were financed by twenty-eight community members and their families. The synagogue had to meet civil and religious requirements according to the municipal law: the entrance was to be in front of the building to allow direct access from the street that was on the east side of the building.
Because it was the side of the Ark, Böttger decided that the entry level would be the home of the Rabbi and family, a community assembly room and the place for ritual studies. The first floor was designed as the prayer hall topped by the women’s section. The architecture of the building was a combination of Oriental and Italian neo-Renaissance style, which was typical of assimilated Jews: the Eastern style was a symbol of Jewish sources from the Land of Israel and the neo-Renaissance was considered as one of the "New styles of German nationalism" and as such a symbol of assimilation. Upon completion of the building, several women brought in two candlesticks with three copper arms placed at the sides of the Ark, and the owner of a mansion purchased a chandelier with 32 arms. The high altar and the other furniture were Moorish styled and produced by the furniture manufacturer Herden[1.17].
The synagogue was inaugurated in an impressive ceremony which took place on the eve of Pentecost, 8thJune 1875, attended by town and religious community dignitaries; Heymann Cohn handed the synagogue keys to the Mayor while Rabbi Moritz Cohn delivered a speech expressing his prayers for the success of the Emperor, the German homeland, the town and its residents and the Jewish community[1.18]. Surrounded by lawns and trees alongside the park planted some decades earlier, the elegant building represented the wealth and pride of the small community that sought to preserve its Jewish roots while at the same time wishing to be assimilated.
In October 1884, the Jewish community and the town leaders celebrated with pomp and ceremony 25 years in office of Rabbi Cohn, the spiritual leader of the Jewish community of Reichenbach. In September 1890, due to health reasons, he resigned after more than three decades in office. As a token of appreciation the community decided to allocate him an annual pension. But a month later his wife Augusta died and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in town. Two months later Rabbi Moritz Cohn decided to accept the proposal of his son Martin and went to live with him in Berlin, but only a short time was left for them to be together. In February 1891, Rabbi Cohn passed away.
When he left his office the number of the Jews in Reichenbach was in decline and that trend would continue in the coming decades: whereas at its peak in 1871, as said before, their number was 185, and together with adjacent communities 257 Jews – now their number decreased to 154, around 1.2% of the resident population. As it turned out, the reasons were mostly economic.
The Jewish Entrepreneurs
Reichenbach and its surroundings were traditionally well known for their manual weaving workshops, which at the end of the 19th century became the center of an accelerated development of the mechanical weaving and spinning industry. In 1855, the town was connected to the regional rail network which gradually upgraded its economic status with new plants owned by locals that in turn created wealthy industrialists and traders, amongst them Jews, whose number was higher relative to their size in the city’s population.
There were other textile industrial centers in this region of Silesia which competed with Reichenbach, but at the end of the day it became the leading center. This predominance would continue for decades later and even for a short time after the Second World War, when the region would be second only to Łódź as Poland's textile industrial center[1.19].
The development of the textile industry in the second half of the 19th century was a by-product of the industrial revolution in Germany, which eventually resulted in machines taking over occupations previously done by hand. With time the process brought to the surface the economic differences between East and West of Prussia. While the western provinces experienced rapid economic progress, the eastern provinces, including Silesia, lagged behind. Indeed, the majority of Silesia remained essentially agricultural; only in the region of Waldenburg in Lower Silesia, where there were coal mines and in Upper Silesia, was there development with the industrial revolution. Its tardy industrialization was due to its relative geographic distance from major European markets and the levying of duties on exports. Therefore, the province depended mainly on closer markets in Berlin and Saxony. The by-product of that was a relatively lower standard of living, which was one of the main reasons for the continuing tendency of migration from the small towns, such as Reichenbach, to big cities like Breslau, and towards the more industrialized and more urban western Germany[1.20]. This was why the number of the Jews in Reichenbach declined continuously: from 185 at the height in 1871, to 154 in 1890, and 92 in 1910[1.21].
Yet, as already stated, not all Jews were economically forced to leave the town. Relative to their proportion of the population, many of them were among the merchants, craftsmen and workers in textile plants, and some were the owners of the plants. Three Jewish families were to play an active role in that industry for decades, until the eve of the Second World War. In general terms, in the early 20th century, the Jews belonged to the more wealthy part of the population in Silesia. For instance, in the provincial capital, Breslau, the Jews constituted 4.3% of the population, yet their share in tax payments was 20.3%. In other cities in Silesia that figure was even higher, pointing to their status within the wider society[1.22].
Prior to presenting the stories of the three aforementioned Jewish families, it would be proper to outline in general terms the textile industry in Reichenbach at that time. Despite the modernization of the production processes in the weaving and spinning mills, the process of the decline of manual labor was steady indeed, but lasted for decades. In 1860, in the Reichenbach district 9515 workshops operated, which decreased to 864 by 1910[1.23]. The work inside the plants was neither easy nor well paid: there was no ventilation, the noisy inner space hampered the communication between people, and workers operated at the same time a number of looms, which often caused accidents.
Erich Hasse, who wrote on the history of Reichenbach up to the late 1920's, noted[1.24]:
"The fate of the weaving working population was more miserable than ever before. The mechanized weaving turned competition on the part of the hand weavers, who still numbered in the region some twenty thousand people, literally impossible. The impoverished weavers appealed on several occasions to the State authorities, even to the Kaiser on 14th June 1890. They claimed that the weekly wage of 5 marks for men and 2.50 for women who worked fourteen hours per day, led inevitably to their economic collapse.
In the days that followed the authorities made numerous attempts to gain control of the emergency situation, but like in the past, all the efforts to change the profession of the hand weavers or transfer them to other areas of work failed due to the passive defiance but stubborn nature of the needy, who preferred living in poverty and distress over the experience of retraining, and leaving their small and neglected homes. It took many years for the transition to the innovative production methods to be completed, which brought at the same time the decline of the hand-weaving sector, and it was only the next generation, the weavers’ male and female descendants, that found its way from the hand-weaving machine to the halls of the machines."
Nevertheless, in the part of the town that once was the neighboring town of Ernsdorf that merged into Reichenbach, in April 1890, manual weaving was still widespread and its residents were among the city's poor. According to Hasse, at the end of 1889 Reichenbach consisted of 6721 residents and Ernsdorf 6042, so that combined it ranged as sixth among the medium sized towns in Silesia[1.25].
Hasse also noted that, in stark contrast to the difficult situation of the weaver population, the commercial sectors were flourishing in a "speculation fever, which was unknown up to that time in the town, which grabbed large parts of the affluent population. Everyone wished to invest his savings in different types of securities, but not always did these moves lead to the desired success. In later years the town experienced severe economic shocks that destroyed overnight any capital."[1.26]
This description did not provide any evidence whether Jewish businessmen took part in such activities. On the other hand, it was known that the Jewish textile entrepreneurs were definitely involved in the economic life of the town. There were 10 active textile plants in the early 20th century in Reichenbach and in its immediate vicinity; in Langenbielau (today, Bielawa) 13 plants operated, and in Peterswaldau (today, Pieszyce) 14. There were also additional plants in the region[1.27]. Three plants in Reichenbach were owned and managed by Jews. This means that one-third of the employees in the town’s textile industry earned their living at Jewish businesses.
One of the largest plants in Reichenbach in the late 90's of the 19th century and early 20th century was the "Cohn Gebrüder G.m.b.H" (Cohn Brothers Ltd.). The brothers, Hermann and Arnold, founded it in 1873 in Langenbielau, where the textile industry progressed faster than in Reichenbach. Both brothers, like their grandfather and father, were engaged in their past in banking and wholesale trading in Silesia, and they brought that background and knowledge with them into their new business. In the early days of the plant, the threads were sent to weavers in villages in the surrounding mountains, who manually wove the cloth and sent it back to the plant in the town. Considering the low production costs and quality, the plant's profitability was higher than their competitors whose production was still completely manual. After three years, Cohn's plant was too small to continue its development and the brothers decided to transfer it to Reichenbach where the railway enabled the easier and cheap transportation of raw materials and finished products.
Between the years 1876 and 1889 the Cohn brothers, besides their textile plant, owned a store where they sold their products. To ensure the continuing development of their business they purchased land on Schweidnitzerstrasse (today, Świdnicka Street (on which they built during 1889-90 a weaving factory, planned by Ewald Böttger, which went into operation in April 1890. The brothers continued to invest and develop the plant by increasing the number of mechanical looms. In time they were able to carry out all the production stages - spinning, weaving, dyeing, bleaching and finishing. It resulted in a reduction of the production costs and independence from other plants. They also purchased additional land on the Frankensteinerstrasse (today, Ząbkowicka Street) in order to setting up a new weaving plant.
The mechanized factory and its concentrated production phases, plus low wages, contributed to its profitability, but at the same time caused social unrest and a series of street demonstrations demanding the improvement of working conditions and wages. Such demonstrations were held in Reichenbach as well as across the country and were the result of a continuous ferment that began to take place in the working classes. The factory owners took steps to defuse the tensions and it was said that the Cohn brothers held several brewery festivals for their employees. However, in the absence of significant improvements in the harsh working conditions and excessive workloads which caused life-threatening events and health hazards, the unrest of the workers went on.
At this point it should be noted, that in the summer of 1899, the Cohn Brothers’ company was among the main investors in the construction of the railway company "Eulengebirgebahn", that connected the local textile industry to its markets across the mountain range south of the town (Eulengebirgein in German and Góry Sowie in Polish), and turned the town into a regional tourist center[1.28].
Arnold and Hermann Cohn prepared their children to replace them in due course and sent them to study the textile professions. In 1897, Bruno, Hermann's son, joined the firm and Georg, Arnold's son, joined a year later. For a few years the elders and their offspring were co-owners of the family businesses. Continuous mechanization and proper management yielded good results. The outbreak of the First World War halted the momentum and the business was undermined, as happened to many similar firms in the region and around Germany.
The sons, like many workers, were drafted into the army at the beginning of the war and the factory management returned to Arnold due to the illness of his brother, Hermann. On the eve of the war, the factory employed 510 workers and a year later the number dropped to 450, among them 122 men. That same year the military equipment orders were reduced, production for the commercial market was forbidden and the cotton industry was nationalized by the state[1.29]. The situation did not improve at once after the war due to high inflation and loss of markets in Poland and the western parts of Germany. It was a time of decline in production and lay-offs which, no doubt, affected the economic situation of the residents of the town and its surroundings.
Hermann Cohn died in 1920 and a year later his brother Arnold. The sons were now the owners and managers of the firm. Despite the many difficulties, they managed to successfully navigate their way, and in the late 1920's developed production lines of fashionable clothes and fabrics for curtains that were very popular on the market. In 1928 they purchased the majority shares of another textile firm and set up a partnership with it. The children of the cousins, Bruno and Georg, joined the company, thus accomplishing the series of three generations managing Cohn Brothers’ plants.
Germany was thrown into the global economic crisis, in 1929, which caused the plants to suffer from the repeated difficulties that had been problematic over the years of operation. In September 1932 strikes broke out at several plants in the Reichenbach area in which 150 employees of the Cohn plants took part, protesting against the extension of weekly working hours from 32 to 40 without salary increments[1.30].
Shortly after the Nazis came to power, in January 1933, the economic situation started to improve and in Reichenbach the textile industry began to revive, receiving increasing orders from the German army and other Nazi organs. However, the Cohn Brothers' businesses were unable to fully utilize that development because of their Jewish origin. Before long they came under pressures that with time intensified. At the end of 1936, Georg changed the status of the firm from a limited company to a limited partnership and went into in receivership. No doubt this course of action was imposed upon the firm as now he was responsible for the debts and liabilities of the Partnership as well as for his personal property, due to the fact that he was the person who ran the company and was its sole decision-maker. The other limited, or so-called quiet partners, were Hulda and Betty Cohn, the mothers of Bruno and Georg, and his sisters who lived in Berlin.
The Nazis continued with severe pressures on Georg, including threats to be sent to a concentration camp, which forced him finally to surrender. On 29 October 1938, he sold the company to Otto Hüesker, one of the town's textile entrepreneurs and a protégé of the Nazis. Certainly, the price he paid did not reflect the real value of the lands, machinery, raw materials and finished products. By the end of 1938, the Cohns had been forced to sell either to the town authorities or private merchants all of their remaining properties - real estate, the private villa on Schweidnitzerstrasse, a farm, a farming factory and all their contents. The Nazis also found and confiscated high-value securities including the shares of the last-purchased company. Georg and wife Selma and other family members were allowed to leave the town and emigrate to England, Brazil, Canada and the United States.
The second Jewish enterprise was "Weyl & Nassau", established on January 1884 by Theodor Weyl with his partner Hermann Nassau. Theodor was a salesman for Cohn Brothers when he decided to start his own business[1.31]. Like the other plants in the region, at the beginning it was a manual weaving plant based on current practice, nowadays defined as outsourcing. With the death of Theodor, in 1887, his son Albert stepped into his shoes. Hermann Nassau left the company in 1900 and moved to a trading business in Berlin. Initially, the firm was a commercial partnership, later changed to a limited partnership, and finally a limited liability company.The process of its rapid development began in April 1896, when it began an automated plant of weaving and spinning machines, situated between the blocks at Neudorferstrasse (today, Nowowiejska Street) and Schweidnitzerstrasse.
As discussed in connection with the Cohn Brothers, here too the situation of the workers was quite bad, and in 1897 the plant was shut down. The repeated demands of the workers to improve their wages and shorten working hours were, as mentioned earlier, common to all the textile businesses and lasted for years, despite various steps taken by the plant owners to introduce progressive reforms. Weyl & Nassau managers even set up places to house their employees, while the Cohn Brothers sponsored sick funds[1.32]. Another improvement took place in the early twentieth century with the development of the construction of homes for the workers’ families. The leading entrepreneurs in that field were the owners of the textile industry, who wished to strengthen the connections between the employees and their plants, and to create a tradition of continuity of future work in the local industry[1.33].
In 1901, Julius Beer joined the company, and ran it together with Albert. Until 1918 it produced mostly colored linens, aprons and cotton fabrics. In later years the production centered on curtains and other cotton products, synthetic fibers and a mixture of these, that put the company at a leading position in its field. According to Albert Weyl, the company listed 5000 customers throughout Germany and employed 550[1.34].
On 26 October 1938, three days before the liquidation of Cohn Brothers’ businesses, the Nazi authorities prohibited Albert from entering the courtyards and using the company telephone. On 18th November, a week after the Kristallnacht pogrom, Julius Beer[1.35] was murdered at his home. A month later the company was expropriated from Albert’s by Edgar Flechtner, an owner of a textile plant in Langenbielau. Like his fellow Jewish managers, Albert lost his big villa, which was to serve in the days of the World War as a casino for Nazi officers. Albert managed to leave Reichenbach and settled in Montevideo, capital of Uruguay,
The story of the third Jewish textile company, "A.Fleischer G.m.b.H", tells a more detailed history of that industry thanks to related first-hand testimonies and documented evidence. These are primarily based on information from Hans Fleischer, son of Ernst and grandson of Alexander, who wrote it down in 1958 in Australia, where he lived under the name of John Fletcher, and the testimony of Willy, Ernst’s older brother, which was written in 1969 by his daughter, Kaete Hildegard von Gumppenberg[1.36].
The company was founded by Alexander Fleischer, in 1869, in what was then the settlement of Ernsdorf (according to other sources it was in 1877)[1.37]. Up till then he had ran, with his brother Joseph, a weave-dyeing business at a farm in Neisse which had been owned by his family for generations. When the river that provided the water for the plant overflowed, Fleischer was forced to leave the farm and he decided to move to Reichenbach, where the weaving industry was already going on. Fleischer was the first to operate mechanical looms with the power of steam-engines, an operation previously done manually. He set up his plant on Uferstrasse (today, Brzegowa Street)[1.38].
The site was by the first railroad tracks in the town that led to the town of Swiednitz, in order to be close to transportation links to move both raw materials and finished products. Fleischer built his villa nearby. For some time he was also involved in public affairs, for example, during the local elections in 1879[1.39].
At its very beginning the plant operated both spinning and weaving machines, which gave him an advantage over competitors operating a single phase of the production process. In later years the company operated all phases: spinning, weaving, dyeing, and finishing.
However, like others the Fleischer firm too experienced labor unrest during the last decade of the 90's. In 1899 Alexander agreed to reduce the daily working of his employees to 10 hours per day[1.40].
Wilhelm, called Willy, the eldest son, wanted to be a chemist, but his father convinced him that he could only make a living in this field if he succeeded in making discoveries. He decided instead to join his father and in 1889 he studied the textile trade for one year in order to join the business. He told his father that there was no technical logic in operating one steam engine to run 20 weaving looms. When Willy returned to the factory after his studies his father assigned him to be a salesman, replacing other salesmen previously employed. Willy travelled on business trips throughout Germany and specifically focused on the area of the Rhineland, in the west of the country. This activity would yield very positive results.
When the younger son, Ernst, finished his training, in 1904, and joined the company, Alexander retired and handed over the management to his sons. The company changed its status to a general partnership, each of them holding a half-ownership. In 1914, Alexander passed away and in 1922, the sons decided to change again the status of the company to a commercial partnership.
In 1905, a large strike of textile workers broke out in Reichenbach. Christian Dierig, who in Langenbielau owned the largest textile factory in the region, and whose businesses extended beyond the boundaries of the European markets, served as the chairman of the regional group of the textile manufacturers’ association in Silesia. While the owners of the small and medium firms sought to end the strike and resume regular work, Dierig, the big capitalist, was interested in prolonging it, since his interest was to continue to sell his inventories in the warehouses. The majority of the factory owners realized that Dierig was actually not representing their interests and voted to oust him. He was replaced by Otto Hüesker and followed by Willy Fleischer.
Hüesker was killed on the front in the First World War, in 1916, and Willy took over his position. Each year the association held elections for the regional chairman. Willy stipulated that he would only stand as a candidate if he had unanimous support. He held the office until 1933, having gained the trust of his fellow-industrialists for many years. He decided to step down in 1933 as a protest against the boycott of Jewish businesses initiated by the Nazis in Reichenbach. In order to appreciate the significance of his personal achievement to win six consecutive elections over sixteen years, one should know that in the region there were 80 textile plants, of which only three were owned by Jews. Hildegard, his daughter, estimated that the area constituted the largest number of textile plants and production capacity in Germany[1.41].
In the years preceding the outbreak of the First World War, the Fleischers continued to develop their business by investing in buildings and equipment. In 1910, they added a dye-house with top cranes to upload and download cloths to and from the boilers. Willy and Ernst registered this device in a US patent, in 1914. At the beginning of the century they were employing mere dozens of workers; however, by 1913 they employed 248, clear evidence of a successful business. The outbreak of the First World War halted the momentum. Both brothers, along with 35 other workers, were mobilized into the army. Their places at the spinning and weaving machines were taken by women. During the war Ernst would be promoted to the rank of Major, while three Jewish residents of Reichenbach fell in the war[1.42].
The implications of reduced production and investments were evident after the end of the War. The daily working was curtailed to eight hours per day in a four-day week. Reducing the production and employment was particularly severe in the textile industry of Lower Silesia -- the salaries here were lower by one-third compared to similar factories in the western part of Germany[1.43]. Nevertheless, the Fleischers continued to invest in their own factory: in 1922 the four-story building was doubled, with a new floor for the weaving mechanization, and in 1925 they purchased from a cattle dealer an additional plot of land to set up a new spinning wing.
In 1924, the firm changed its status from an unlimited commercial partnership to a limited company. After the marriage of his daughter Else, in the summer of 1923, Willy Fleischer assigned her 8.57% of the company shares; and when the young couple settled permanently in Reichenbach, in 1926, her husband Erich Weyl, nephew of Theodor Weyl, who possessed an educational background in textiles, was appointed technical manager and treasurer. Willy assigned a similar dowry to his second daughter Hildegard, in 1929, after her marriage to Baron Max von Gumppenberg.
The Fleischers managed to get through the global economic crisis which began in late 1929 relatively well, without major damage to the business, and without adopting the usual measure of reducing production costs by cutting the number of employees. In his memoir Peter Weyl noted, that Willy Fleischer his grandfather, kept most if not all his employees during the crisis, and even paid them out of his own pocket[1.44]. During these difficult times the owners continued to invest in the production infrastructure, and in the 1930's the factory manufactured for both the domestic German market and foreign markets such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Latin America. In 1937, the factory still gave a living to 225 employees; 60% of the production was for their own use and 40% was sold to other textile factories[1.45].
Although both Willy and Ernst Fleischer, the elders, continued to work full-time until 1938, they gradually passed on the daily management of the business to the younger generation, Erich Weyl, Willy's son-in-law, and Hans, Ernst's son. They were not given shares in the company, but they were its only authorized signatories. At the beginning of January 1937, the legal status of the company was altered once again, this time from a limited company to a limited partnership. According to Hans's testimony, Willy and Ernst became general partners, which meant that they were personally liable for the debts and assets of the company and for their private assets, whereas the sisters, Else and Hildegard, were registered as a limited partnership without any change in their share-holdings.
As already stated, similar changes happened to the Cohn Brothers’ company and probably also to Weyl & Nassau, because of the sort of pressures the Nazis imposed upon the Jewish industrialists to deprive them of their assets. Peter Weyl wrote that, in 1938, the Fleischer brothers were willing to hand over the company to a limited partnership of Hans and Hildergard, as the first was half-Jewish (with a Christian mother) and the second bore the name of her husband, a German Baron. The move did not succeed, although Willy, Ernst and Erich were Jews, Hans was first-degree biracial by the Nazis’ racist definition, and therefore considered as a Reich citizen. In those days he was the one who represented the firm with the authorities.
Hans testified that as a modern company the Fleischers’ had become a target for its competitors. One such smaller competitor was the weaving and dyeing plant "Wilhelm Jordan GmbH", which was in the vicinity of Neurode (today, Nowa Ruda) and its sister plant, "Günther & Gerhard Jordan". They made an initial offer to purchase the Fleischer factory but it was rejected due to its low price. The Fleischers then negotiated with the "Hecking Company" in Westfalen, western Germany, who were ready to pay a more reasonable price. However, Gunther Jordan was an active Nazi and also an economic adviser to the Neurode local council. It was therefore not surprising that the permit to close the deal with the Hecking was not achieved.
Thanks to the efforts of Hans Fleischer, the company managed to persuade the Reich Economics Ministry to dispatch to Reichenbach an appraiser to assess the factory’s value. His report was received by a local party official on 10 November 1938, the day after the Kristallnacht progrom. Willy Fleischer, who had cancer, was in the Jewish hospital in Breslau and survived the horrors of that terrible day. Erich Weyl was arrested that same morning at his home and was sent later that day to the concentration camp Sachsenhausen near Oranienburg.
Hans maintained that because he had approached the Reich ministry, the local Nazis who supported the Jordan Brothers decided to take revenge on him, and that is why he was the only biracial who was imprisoned that day together with his father Ernst and other Jewish residents of the town. The arrest took place at their offices in the factory by two Nazis who were employed there, Christen and Rusig. They were dragged out, beaten and had their homes searched, accompanied by a Nazi Labor Front functionary and a few factory workers who were forced to accompany them.
Afterwards, Hans was moved to the town-hall for interrogation. Here he was beaten again by a man named Jung, the chairman of the Nazi Labor Front district and an SS member. Hans and his father Ernst were moved to the prison at the municipal court in the city and detained in separate cells. Hans was once again beaten by Jung and the district Nazi Party leader, named Müller. On 16 November 1938, Günter and Gerhard Jordan arrived at the prison with their attorney Walter Neugebauer, accompanied by Müller. They presented to Ernst the contract for the sale of the business for his signature. Ostensibly, the purchasers could not pay more than the price set by the Reich Economics Ministry and in the present circumstances it was obviously a lost cause.
In general terms, whereas a lot of Jewish property was destroyed and plundered during the Kristallnacht and the day after throughout Germany, in Reichenbach the damage was relatively minor, including the Fleischer’s factory. The damage was greatest at their private property which had started even before the pogrom. As in the case of the Cohn Brothers, they lost land, Willy's villa by the factory and Ernst's villa on Schweidnitzerstrasse which he had passed to Hans his son, who was half-Jewish. But, after Kristallnacht, while he was imprisoned with his father, Hans’s social first-degree status was worthless and the large house was a target of destruction and looting[1.46].
The pogrom served the Jordan as a pretext to pay much less on the grounds that it was retaliation by the German people against the Jews, which resulted in a significant depreciation of the company assets. The exhausted Ernst tried first to argue, but had to give up the moment Müller pulled out his pistol. This convinced Ernst and Hans that they had to sign the contract of sale of their life’s work for one-third of its appraised value. Ten days later, on November 26, they were both released from what the authorities defined as a "protective detention" by the local SS commander and a member of the town council, named Achtzehn. Hans was called to Müller's office and warned not to enter the offices of the company even though the transaction was not yet completed. This was the tragic end of the Fleischer family enterprise set up seven decades earlier.
In the absence of his very ill elder brother, Ernst Fleischer had run the company in very harsh conditions. He and his Christian wife managed to leave Reichenbach and traveled to Düsseldorf, where they lived in a house that belonged to relatives of his wife's family until Ernst’s death, in March 1942. Hans was able to leave in early January 1939 and traveled to England, leaving behind his German wife and sons in the hope that they would join him shortly. But the outbreak of the war thwarted this. She traveled to live near her parents in Erfurt and after a few months the Nazis deprived Hans of his German citizenship and his wife was therefore required to divorce him. Hans was interned in England, in June 1940, but a month later was sent to Australia and there imprisoned for two years. After his release he was drafted into the Australian Army and, upon finishing his army service, began a new chapter of his life bearing a new name, John Fletcher.
As mentioned above, Willy Fleischer being in hospital was not arrested on the Kristallnacht. Yet he was very shocked by the destruction of his life’s work and, according to his daughter Hildegard, he even refused to leave the hospital. In June 1939, she took him and traveled in a Reich medical train wagon from Breslau to Düsseldorf where her family lived, and there Willy passed away within a month.
His other daughter, Else and her husband Erich, managed to leave Reichenbach and travel to England where their son and daughter, Klaus Peter and Doris, had already escaped to live with their aunt and uncle. In his memoir Peter noted that his parents were allowed to leave and gain access to the UK because Erich’s brother had already moved to England and had been working as a doctor since 1933. The Weyls would continue their voyage to the USA.
In the meantime, in Reichenbach, an additional property tax was imposed upon the Jews, two days after the bloody events, which was “towards the costs of repairing broken businesses and houses”. There was further confiscation of the Jewish property, known as "Aryanization", which affected assets valued over 5000 Reichsmarks and applied to 33 Jews, defined as a "contribution" from the “cooperation between World Jewry and the German Jews”[1.47].
The continued pressures impoverished the Jews economically and pushed them to emigrate abroad[1.48]. According to Brilling, in 1937 lived in Reichenbach 71 Jews and two years later their number plummeted to 19 and another one in a nearby settlement[1.49]. However, a census conducted, on 17 May 1939, indicated that, according to Nazi racist definitions, there were 25 "full" Jews (Volljuden) and another 29 bi-racial of first and second degree (one or both grandfathers were Jews) in the town[1.50]. Therefore, Hans, whose father was married to his German mother, was a first-degree biracial and his children.
The Life Under the Nazis
The story of the three Jewish textile industrial entrepreneurs is a significant part of the history of the small Jewish community in Reichenbach, yet it did not necessarily reflect the situation of other Jews. As we have seen, their numbers dwindled over the years, whereas the textile industrialists managed big businesses and gave a living to hundreds of local families.
The stories detailed above have left some others in obscurity. For instance, who led the community spiritually after Rabbi Moritz Cohn. Brilling stated that Rabbi Cohn was in charge until 1884, even though according to other sources, as mentioned above, he stepped down in 1890; he was succeeded by Jacob Bähr, who then moved to Waldenburg; the last was Sigismund Karlsberg, who came to Reichenbach from Pomerania and served as the Rabbi from 1898, but it is unknown till when[1.51]. It is possible that he served there until the First World War; and it may be that there was no rabbi serving the community and no ritual activity within the synagogue for some time between the World Wars[1.52]. According to existing records, in 1925 the community leader was David Wachsner, while the merchant Samuel Waldhorn used to live in the synagogue, which could be an indication of his role as the guardian of the building[1.53].
Reichenbach was small in terms of the Jewish communities in Lower Silesia, and the number of members had decreased steadily over the decades, mainly for economic reasons. In this sense it did not differ from other communities in the region because, as said above, there was a significant difference between the economies of western Germany and the East, in Silesia. Its territorial size was about a quarter of the country, on which lived around one eight of the general population, but its industrial production amounted to about 6% of the Germany GDP. The wage of the workers in all Eastern areas was 35% lower compared to other parts of the Reich. According to a report by the Mayor of Breslau, at the beginning of 1939, every year between the two World Wars thousands of employees from the city traveled westward looking for work, and from a city of more than 600,000 residents it increasingly became a city of pensioners, small businesses and merchants[1.54]. This migration must have also included Jews.
The economic difficulties continued and grew steadily during the First World War and the Jewish street name of Judengasse into Georgsstrasse. However, the Nazi authorities allowed the Jewish-owned textile enterprises to continue their business in both internal German markets and external markets abroad, despite the racial laws, denial of citizenship to Jews, and the prohibition of holding private property. As already mentioned, there were periods without a permanent Rabbi to lead the congregation and the synagogue served as a place of residence for other people. Among them was Josef Kaminski from Beuthen( today Bytom) in Upper Silesia. He came to Reichenbach, in 1930, after he had lost his cloths store which he owned with a partner, who appeared to be addicted to gambling. Offered a similar occupation he turned around in town to look for a dwelling for the family, wife Amalie and two kids, Heinz and Susi. As almost none were available he approached the community housing project GAGWA and put some deposit. But, when the family arrived in town the administrators found out that the Kaminski's are Jews and refused to approve their application. Without other options Josef approached the Jewish community and arranged to get an apartment within the synagogue in exchange to take care of the building. They lived in the place which five decades earlier had served the family of Rabbi Moritz Cohn[1.55]. Kaminski would manage a cloths store on Schweidnitzerstrasse until the day, in 1933, when it was confiscated by the newcomers, the Nazis. For about a year he stayed jobless but then was hired by the Weyl & Nassau firm to the payroll department[1.56].
In 1933, there were 67 Jews in Reichenbach and another 13 in the surrounding area. The community leader was Hans Reich and alongside him, the merchant Max Warschauer and watchmaker Hermann Hirsch. In the community council served also David Wachsner and Felix Danziger[1.57]. Nine children, most probably sons, attended religious studies at the synagogue and according to Susi Klein their teacher was Rabbi Franz Rosenthal, who was arriving once a week from Breslau. Holiday and ritual ceremonies were conducted by Rabbi Heidenfeld who came from Schweidnitz.
Peter (Klaus) Weyl wrote in his memoirs, that he went to an elementary school and began studying at the gymnasium in the town[1.58]. At some point the Nazi authorities prevented him from continuing his studies and his parents were able to find a place in a Jewish school in Breslau and stayed there with Jewish families.
Klaus mother, Else Weyl, prepared a late personal written testimony, in 1956, which told of told of otherwise unknown events of the Jewish life in Reichenbach that showed some bearable events from those dark days. The first was an initiative of the Jewish War Veterans to set up a hostel for few young Jews to stay and spend their leisure time in. An old shed was found and the required drawings for setting it up in the garden at the backyard of the synagogue were prepared, but the town authorities hesitated to grant the requested license. After some actions the license was achieved, the plan was accomplished and the hostel, actually a hut, was set up and functioned until the Kristallnacht[1.59]. Groups of up to 16 youths accompanied by one or two adults were staying there for several days, up to a week. Students from the Jewish school in Breslau visited the place and during the summer vacations children from the region were invited.
Susi Klein, born 1929, attended the kindergarten directed by Frieda Auerbach, and later a Catholic elementary school. She recalls that the hostel was set up in 1934 or 1935 and was visited by poor Jewish children who were paying pennies (actually, reichspfennigs). They enjoyed the mountains and countryside to do scouting type activities. It was a vacation which their parents otherwise could not have afforded.
At the synagogue on the ground floor there was a corridor down the middle leading to a stairway that led to the prayer space on the upper floors. On the left side was accommodation that was originally occupied by the local Rabbi. Now it served as Kaminski family living space, consisting of three rooms and a kitchen where baths were also taken in an iron tub; on the right-hand side were three rooms used for after-school religious teaching and activities and by the summer youth groups. The children used to prepare their meals on their own and clean up. The upper floors were for prayer.
The garden in the backyard was a large open space with the Town Wall and the Tower which lasted ever since the days of Fredrick the Great. While the synagogue may not have been opened every week, the garden was used often. Jewish families were spending here their leisure time on the weekends and during the summer days.
The second story told by Else Weyl was associated with the "Kulturband" (German Jewish Cultural Union), which dispatched Jewish artists to give lectures and concerts at weekends in Reichenbach, to which Jews from other nearby towns and villages were always invited. One of those artists’ groups which the community liked included the singer Max Mansfield and Dr. Ludwig Landau. They were asked to arrive on Thursdays and remain through Saturdays. On the Saturday evening, Mansfield performed cantor songs and Landau acted as a preacher. At other times, guest rabbis, such as Dr. Hermann Vogelstein, the liberal congregation Rabbi in Breslau, came. "And so it happened that they were with us in October 1938 and conducted the last and most beautiful service that little synagogue had ever had…"[1.60].
The end was unexpected and tragic: on the Kritstallnacht on 9th November, some SA men broke into the synagogue, ordered the Kaminski family to walk to the police station and then move on to the villa of Betty Cohn, the mother of Georg. Their neighbors were watching from the windows but no one came out or said anything. The next afternoon Josef Kaminski was picked up by the Gestapo and transferred with other Jews men to a jail in Breslau from where he was deported to Buchenwald.
A few days later Amalie, Susi's mother, was called by the Mayor and ordered to go back to the synagogue to clear it up. She was scared to death but had to go to collect up father's dresses which she had thrown out the window when intruded, as they were hanging on the trees and bushes. She had also to vacate the synagogue and take all her belongings. As the Jewish men were taken away, Amalie asked four Jewish boys to help her with the task[1.61].
Josef Kaminski returned after three weeks with a wound on his head as he had been badly beaten. What probably might have saved him was a document he had kept in his pocket that indicated that he had been decorated with an 'Iron Cross' in the First World War in his service as a paramedic.
The family decided to leave the town as fast as possible. With the assistance of mother's cousin in La Paz, capital of Bolivia, who delivered them a visa and her relative who rendered them some money for a ticket, they managed to leave Reichenbach, in mid February 1939, and sailed from Hamburg to Bolivia where they would live for the next nine years before traveling to Argentina and in 1963 to the USA.
In the end, the synagogue in Reichenbach was one of only three synagogues in Lower Silesia that survived the pogrom and later the war: the others were in Münsterberg (today, Ziębice) and Breslau. The former was not destroyed because in the early days of the Nazi regime they vandalized it and turned it into a barn and so it remained to the end of the war. In Breslau, the Nazis burned the New Synagogue but the old 'The White Stork' remained intact, because it was situated among other buildings and the destruction gangs feared that the fire would spread to non-Jewish buildings. The synagogue served the entire community until 1943, when the Nazis turned it into a mechanics workshop and a warehouse for the property looted from the Jews. The synagogue yard was turned into the gathering place of the Jews from all over Lower Silesia before their transportation to the concentration and death camps, in the same way as the Umschlagplatz in Warsaw.
There were no documented details as to the reasons why the Reichenbach synagogue remained intact[1.62]. The hypothesis that has lasted ever since stated that at some time, probably in 1937, the town administration confiscated the synagogue and the cemetery. The Jewish community leaders called on the German, Konrad Springer, who for years had been employed by the community as a guard, gardener and undertaker of the Jewish cemetery, and proposed that he would purchase back the two properties. Apparently with the acquiescence of the Mayor Kurt Dzierzon, and one or two other town council members, a tender for those assets was organized. Not surprisingly, no one else besides Springer submitted a bid and he got them. It was assumed that some of the wealthy local Jews provided the money for the purpose[1.63]. Thus, on the Kristallnacht the synagogue was the property of a ‘pure German’ and was therefore immune from the looting and burning of many synagogues throughout Germany.
Based on what is told in this essay, a new version may shed light on that ambiguous matter. The fact that the Kaminski family lived in the synagogue until the Kristallnacht events is an indication that at that time it was not a German property; Also, the Mayor's order to Amalie after the tragic night could be regarded as a sign that the synagogue was immune beforehand from destruction; Furthermore, according to Prof. Christofer Frey, born in Reichenbach in 1938, direct compulsory sales of Jewish property took place in Germany only after the 9th November events. Since public authorities were banned from accepting Jewish donations, the auction in Reichenbach if indeed it took place, enabled Springer to appear as the sole bidder[1.64]. The final fact to support that thesis is that within a relative short time, in the beginning of 1939, the Hitler-Jugend posted its headquarters within the synagogue and thus secured finally its immunity for the war years[1.65].
The historiography has referred to the Kristallnacht pogroms as a landmark of Nazi brutality towards the Jews in Germany and a clear signal for the future of what was to happen. The destruction campaign, murders and deportation to concentration camps, were a high-level decision, justified as a reaction to the killing of Ernst von Rath, a junior official at the German embassy in Paris, by a Jewish youth Herschel Grynszpan, who wished to react to the oppressions of the Nazis. In Lower Silesia the murderous rampage had a local dimension because the family of von Rath lived in Breslau and he had completed his matriculation there in 1928[1.66].
Reichenbach in the War
There are two separate Jewish histories related to the town. The first is the fate of the remaining Jews who still lived in the town, and the second relates to the development by the Nazis of forced labor centers in the vicinity of the town. The first is a relatively short-lived tragedy, because of the very small number of Jews left and their eventual extermination. The second development of the Nazis lasted throughout the war years, when Jews were used as slave labor: instead of their direct physical extermination, it was intended that they would be eliminated through forced labor.
The first phase began in 1940, with the initial transportation of the Jews from Lower Silesia to the areas occupied by the Germans in Poland. The final phase prior to their mass destruction began in spring 1941 with the concentration in Breslau of the Jews from all over the province into a ghetto, i.e. a defined residential area stretched between the streets of Włodkowica and Sądowa. From November 1941 through April 1944, Jews were deported from the freight-train station. There were 11 large transports of Jews from the province to concentration camps and killing sites. Many of them were sent to Theresienstadt[1.67]. Sometimes, before their deportation the Jews underwent a physical and stamina examination in an apartment of a Jew, on Sądowa Street 3/4. Three Gestapo personnel conducted this farce, while a Jewish doctor summoned was never asked about the results[1.68]. At the end of 1942, there were no Jews left in Reichenbach[1.69].
The second phase involved the construction of a huge complex of forced-labor camps in the area around Reichenbach. After the surrender of Poland, in the fall of 1939, the Germans organized transit camps for prisoners in barns on Ufertstrasse, in a building that once was a guest house on Schießhausstrasse (today, Strzelnicza Street, the site of the cinema Włókniarz) and barracks around Ackergasse (today, Wodna Street). The prisoners belonged to the Stalag VIIIA camp that was located in Görlitz. In May 1940, a company related to the SS squads purchased from a woman named Margerita Hey a granite quarry at Gross-Rosen, the German name of the village Rogoźnica, located around 40 km northwest of Reichenbach. In order to provide local and cheap forced labor, it was decided to place a camp near the quarry. It became an extension of the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen and was named "Arbeitslager-AL Gross-Rosen". In August 1940, the first prisoners were transported there and the following May it was decided to turn it into an independent camp. Unlike the death camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek or Treblinka, Gross-Rosen was set up as the largest camp of labor exploitation and deliberate elimination through work[1.70].
In its first two years it served as a labor camp for prisoners deported from the concentration camps of Dachau and Sachsenhausen. From 1942, increased bombing by the US and British Air Forces on industrial centers in western Germany forced the authorities in Berlin to evacuate hundreds of thousands of Germans from their homes, along with industrial enterprises vital to the war economy.
According to an official report, in November 1943 were settled in Lower Silesia 133,031 Germans[1.71]. During that year, the Wehrmacht suffered painful defeats, and the dwindling ranks on the fronts were to be filled with workers from the German civilian sector, including those employed in defense industries, who were replaced by labor-camp prisoners.
As the war was turning against the Germans, and the demands on regional enterprises grew, an extensive network of around 100 labor camps were established, sprawling over on a huge area south, west and north of Reichenbach. They were set up under the command of Gross-Rosen. Many of the camps were designated for Jewish women and transportation was directed straight to these camps. Jewish male and female prisoners arrived mostly from the Plaszow Concentration Camp and the Łódź Ghetto, after a ‘quarantine’ period in Auschwitz. Similarly, Jewish prisoners arrived from Hungary, Greece and Western Europe[1.72]. In total, during the war, the main camp and its affiliated camps held around 120,000 prisoners from across Europe and among them 57,000 Jews, mostly from Poland and Hungary. The Gross-Rosen complex held a relatively high percentage of prisoners who were women, 26,000[1.73].
The first 'employees' in these regional enterprises were Jews from the labor camp Faulbrück (in Polish, Mościsko), north of Reichenbach, set up in March 1941. This camp was the largest in the camp complex, called ZALfJ, the acronym of the name of forced labor camps for the Jews. The other camp operated in the village of Graeditz (ZALfJGraeditz), (in Polish, Grodiszcze), halfway between Reichenbach and Schweidnitz. The camp was occupied by Jewish prisoners from Upper Silesia, France and the Netherlands. These prisoners traveled by train, called the 'Judenzug' (Jews’train), to their work-places in Reichenbach and Langenbielau. In Reichenbach they worked in armament plants and on building projects, including the setting up of the "Sportschule", named after a sports camp that had been active in the 1920s, but since 1935 was a sports school for the Hitlerjugend. The camp was situated to serve Reichenbach, Peterswaldau and Langenbielau and its official name was "Langenbielau I (Sportschule)" because it was administratively affiliated to that town[1.74].
In addition to the above mentioned activities, in Reichenbach the prisoners set up six public shelters for protection against air raids on the following sites[1.75]:
- Strasse der SA (today, Daszyńskiego Street), opposite the headquarters of the Nazi party, which was blown up by the Nazis with weapons and ammunition within its shelters before retreating from the town;
- Schweidnitzerstrasse, the military school for communication in the mountains;
- In the entrance to the yards of today’s bus company PKS, where during the war the production of equipment parts for the Luftwaffe (air force), bombs and ammunition was taking place;
- Opposite the train station to hide rail employees and passengers;
- At the Hagenuk radio plant on Schulstrasse (Szkolna Street );
- Göhlichstrasse (Piłsudskiego Street), by the old walls of the Sadebeck cemetery.
Among those that engaged in activities for the war efforts were the textile companies in the town, converting their plants in order to make new military products as well as to continue producing their original goods. The Jewish prisoners were employed in converting the previous Cohn Brothers’ plant on Schweidnitzerstrasse into a "Telefunken" plant which produced military communication radio devices, and a weaving plant on Schulstrasse was converted for the production of radio devices for the Navy and cannons. This is the site called "Hagenuk", which after the war it would become the Polish radio plant "Diora". The spinning mill on Langenbielauerstasse (Batalionów Chłopskich Street) was occupied by the "Bosch" company, which manufactured equipment for the air force, while the original weaving-plant was converted for the aviation industry. This factory employed 300 Jewish women while at the weaving-plant of Flechtner (formerly, Weyl & Nassau) on Dreißighubenstrasse (Złota Street) were employed 200 Jewish women[1.76].
The Jordan textile factory (formerly, Fleischer) became, in the first half of 1944, an ammunition plant, "Siling II". Testimonies from female employees disclosed that the plant operated also as a forced labor camp. Its commander was Ruth Ragotzi, who after graduating in business studies in Reichenbach, first went to work as an office assistant and later was promoted to accounting, and finally in 1944 was promoted to the job of managing the factory labor camp, in charge of forty female employees. On 17 February 1945, the factory was bombed by the Soviets and damaged, forcing the employees to be evacuated to other plants.
After the war, the female prisoners testified that Rakotsi used to beat them and reduce food rations when output fell, which caused prisoners to suffer from various diseases. She also used to report to the police avoidance of work, which meant prison and in one case even deportation to Auschwitz. She was arrested, tried and sentenced to three years in prison[1.77].
What happened within the Fleischer plants after the transfer of the ownership to the Jordan brothers, was told by an employee named Erich Teichmann, in a letter he sent in December 1946 to Erich Weyl, and appears in the memoir of his son, Peter Klaus:
"They [the Jordan's] continued producing the same products as they were unable to innovate and develop new ones. Their primary objective was to make money. As a result, the business started its decline in 1939. As the Second World War began, they obtained military contracts. They were ordered to hire, as manager, a certain Battke, to take charge of the mill. He used to be a bad weaver and knew nothing else. What saved the factory were the large orders resulting from the beginning of the war. The Jordans were going tofire me, but they realized that I was needed. A certain Mr. Hartmann, who formerly worked at Huesker, had to be hired to represent the Nazi party. The Jordans were drafted and as I was the only one who understood the business, they had no alternative but to retain me. Even when the Jordans were there, they did not bother with the factory. As the war developed, the situation became worse.”[[refr|Weyl, Family History, op. cit.]]
As the war was coming to an end and the Red Army was advancing rapidly toward Germany, the German Eastern front commanded the evacuation of the Auschwitz camp, moving thousands of its prisoners on ‘Death Marches’ westward. One of these marches passed along the streets of Reichenbach and Langenbielau on their way toward Gross-Rosen. But, due to the enormous numbers in the camp, in early February 1945 it was decided to evacuate it faster in a series of marches westward deep into Germany, which resulted in the death of tens of thousands of prisoners. According to the testimony of a resident in Reichenbach, he saw French prisoners marching through the town streets dressed in military uniform, carrying backpacks, wearing boots, marching in military style and unguarded. In contrast, the Jews showed visible signs of misery: dressed in rags, wrapped in blankets, their feet wrapped in rags, and looking very miserable. Alongside every twenty prisoners walked an armed man. The weak were led by hand and the frail were left by the roadside and then shot by the Germans. After each group trailed a cart on which the bodies were loaded[1.78].
In February an order was issued to evacuate the civilians from Reichenbach, except those who were engaged in the war effort. The evacuees were moved south, to Neurode (today, Nowa Ruda) and many would return at the end of the war. In April 1945, the Germans decided to turn Reichenbach, as they had earlier in Breslau, into a fortified town to be protected at all costs. It was said to include defensive lines in the town and the mountain ranges surrounding it. The Jewish prisoners were assigned to dig trenches and anti-tank barriers, weapon stations and observation posts. Yet, unlike Breslau where the Soviet siege lasted nearly three months during which tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians were killed and a great part of the city was ruined, Reichenbach was saved from a similar fate because the Germans decided to withdraw from the town, blowing up the Nazi Party headquarters with its weaponry in the shelters before leaving.
Summary: The end of an era
At the end of the Second World War came the end of the formal existence of the Jewish community in Reichenbach although, as we have seen, there were no Jews at that time. Three physical objects were the remnants of the German era: the synagogue, the cemetery and the textile factories. The Jewish identity of the first two was re-established upon the arrival of Jews to the town, the"New Jews", those who had managed to survive the horrors of the Holocaust and the Second World War. The original three Jewish-owned textile plants were converted to military objectives during the war. At its end two went back to operating as textile factories whereas the Cohn Brothers facilities, which were reconfigured during the war to make radio parts, became the radio factory "Diora." The first factory to renew its operation, in February 1946, was the Flechtner factory (formerly, Weyl & Nassau), and six months later the Jordan factory (previously, Fleischer). Both plants were unified with other plants and several months later were set up as a government corporation (in effect, nationalized).
From the standpoint of the Jews as an existent community, two aspects may be defined: assimilation and emigration. For the purposes of this article, the first manifestation has been outlined in its broader context. In this sense, assimilation reflected the desire of the Jews to fit into their immediate surroundings, to accept the culture of the country they lived in, and to integrate into its society. Prof. Dariusz Stola stated that "one needs great determination to integrate socially [within the local society] and remain a Jew." In his view, many historical examples show that the strongest motivation to assimilate was the possibility to advance within the economic, political and social hierarchy. Assimilation on a mass scale occurred in countries that were experiencing development and modernization processes[1.79].
At our discussion, Prussia could have been regarded thus ever since the mid 19th century. Even in a small Jewish community such as Reichenbach, several Jewish assimilated families succeeded in setting up prosperous trading businesses in the town. The more wealthy families managed to set up and conduct textile plants which were in operation for decades, including in times of war and economic crises, and maintained hundreds of the town and county citizens, and thus established for themselves a honorable social status that survived for several years, even under Nazi rule until just before the outbreak of World War II. Not only that: the community initiated and managed to set up for itself a synagogue with assimilated characteristics that may be considered the other side of their assimilated status, enabling them to preserve the Jewish spark.
In standing the test of time and its outcomes, the Jewish-German community stood out as rooted in the German society, and despite its very small size relative to the general population, its impact was inversely proportional on the town's life due to the three textile manufacturers and it passed the tests of the difficult times of the First World War (indeed men of an appropriate age from these families took part in the war), the ensuing economic crisis in Germany and the global financial crisis of 1929. The fact that they were Jews did not prevent their integration until the Nazis confiscated their fortunes. The era of German modernization in the second half of the 19th century was a product of the industrial revolution, in which the individual was able to progress economically and socially in accordance with his personal capabilities. The identification with the objectives of the state and the ways and means to achieve them, were for the Jews a ticket to try and acquire a status within the society.
Nonetheless, the social and cultural assimilation of the German Jews turned out to be worthless when the respective government had identified them as an undesired element which must be uprooted by force and brutal means. The process lasted for a very short time span and eliminated over 120 years of a peacefully living side by side with their gentile neighbours.
In spite of the socio-economic factors and the Jewish community's very small size in absolute and relative numbers, the data points out a steady decline over the years. At its peak, in 1871, the ratio was 2.7% (185 out of 6935 people) and that figure dwindled over the years, reaching almost zero in 1939; At the rise of the Nazis, in 1933, the Jewish population ratio was 0.4% (67 out of 17,521), while in 1939 on the eve of World War II, the percentage dropped to 0.1% (19 out of 17,253)[1.1.21]. In fact, only during the years 1870-1890 were there more than a hundred Jews whereas in other periods their numbers did not exceed dozens. This exemplified their trend to migrate to other places in Germany, and probably also abroad, mainly for economic reasons. The fact that there were three wealthy Jewish owners of textile plants who employed hundreds of locals while other Jews were leaving in their quest for places of employment elsewhere, should be a clear indication of the socio-economical heterogeneity of that very small Jewish community.
Obviously, that could not be said of the departure process in the 1930's when the direction of the movement, in face of the growing Nazis persecutions, was definitely out of Germany. The fact that the Jewish textile industrialists continued with their businesses for another five years after the arrival of the racist anti-Jewish regime, was apparently that they were able to provide some ‘added value’ in the eyes of the authorities. Ultimately, those who did not leave the town on time met their tragic fate later at the hands of the Nazis. Three years after the last Jew was deported to his/her death, the town absorbed Jews again, this time in totally different circumstances.
- Brilling B., Die Jüdischen Gemeinden Mittelschlesiens Entstehung und Geschichte, Verlag W. Kohlhammer, Struttgart, Berlin, Köln, Mainz 1972.
- Fiedor K., Dolny Śląsk w świetle dokumentów niemieckich z lat 1926–1939, Ossolineum, Wrocław, 1963, pp. 12, 26-27.
- Grużlewska A., Dzierżoniowska synagoga – świadek historii żydowskiej, (private papers)
- Grużlewska A., Fabryka “A. Fleischer G.m.b.H.” w Dzierżoniowie, [in] Bibliotheca Bielaviana 2011, Wrocław-Bielawa 2012.
- Grużlewska A., Fabryka "Cohn Gebrüder" – funkcjonowanie żydowskiego przedsiębiorstwa na przełomie XIX i XX w., [in] Bibliotheca Bielaviana 2010, Wrocław–Bielawa 2011.
- Grużlewska A., Od asymilacji do wykluczenia: społeczność żydowska w Dzierżoniowie (1870–1944), [in] Dzierżoniów – wiek miniony, Materiał pokonferencyjne, ed. Ligarski S., Przerwa T., IPN, Wrocław 2007.
- Grygorcewicz B., Przemysł włókienniczy w Dzierżoniowie: dwa początki, [in] Dzierżoniów – wiek miniony, Materiał pokonferencyjne, ed. Ligarski S., Przerwa T., IPN, Wrocław 2007.
- Hasse E., Chronik der Stadt Reichenbach im Eulengebirge, "Reichenbacher Tageblatt", 1929.
- Jarowicki S., Żydzi w Dzierżoniowie w latach 1930-1960, "Rocznik Dzierżoniowski", 1992.
- Jonca K., Etapy polityki rasistowskiej w Trzeciej Rzeszy, (Ze szczególnym uwzględnieniem Śląska) [in] Dzieje Najnowsze, Rocznik XVIII-1986, z. 3-4.
- Kobielec A., Więźniowie Żydzi w KL Gross-Rosen, (Stan Badań), Państwowe Muzeum Gross-Rosen, 1993.
- Koch W. J, Martin Nordegg: The Uncommon Immigrant, Brightest Pebble Publishing Co. Ltd., Edmunton, Alberta, Canada 1997.
- Leo Baeck Institute, Ueberlebt in Berlin 1941–1945, ME
- Alberto Weyl Collection, AR 91.
- Alexander Fleischer Family Collection, AR 3641.
- Pawlak K., Obozy pracy przymusowej I filie KL Gross-Rosen położone na Ziemi Dzierzoniowskiej [in] Dzierżoniów – wiek miniony, Materiał pokonferencyjne, ed. Ligarski S., Przerwa T., IPN, Wrocław 2007.
- „Wszyscy krawcy wyjechali. O Żydach w PRL” – z Natalią Aleksiun i Dariuszem Stolą rozmawia Barbara Polak, Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej, nr 11 (58), 2005.
- Połomski F., Deportacje Żydów z Dolnego Śląska w latach 1941–1944. Próba rekonstrukcji, [in] Z dziejów ludności żydowskiej na Śląsku, ed. Matwijowski K., Wrocław 1991.
- Siebel-Achenbach S., Lower Silesia from Nazi Germany to Communist Poland, 1942-49, Martin's Press, 1994.
- Wiatrowski L., Żyga S., Żydzi na Śląsku w XIX i na początku XX wieku – struktura demograficzna, działalność gospodarcza, naukowa i kulturalna, [in] Z dziejów ludności żydowskiej na Śląsku, ed. Matwijowski K., Wrocław 1991.
- Frey Christopher, Written comments.
- Klein Suzi, Written comments.
- Weyl K. Peter, Family History, (Private memoir).
- Koch W. J., The Jewish community of Reichenbach/Dzierżoniów [online] http://synagogarutika.com/en/history/jewish-community/ [Accessed: 31.01.2019].
- Lexikon der jüdischen Gemeinden im deutschen Sprachraum, Reichenbach/Eulengebirge (Schlesien) [online] xn--jdische-gemeinden-22b.de/index.php/gemeinden/p-r/1638-reichenbach-eulengebirge- schlesien [Accessed: 31.01.2019].
- [1.1] Wiatrowski L., Żyga S., Żydzi na Śląsku w XIX in na początku XX wieku – struktura demograficzna, działalność gospodarcza, naukowa i kulturalna, [in] Z dziejów ludności żydowskiej na Śląsku, ed. Matwijowski K., Wrocław 1991, pp. 12, 15.
- [1.2] Brilling B., Die Jüdischen Gemeinden Mittelschlesiens Entstehung Und Geschichte, Verlag W. Kohlhammer, Struttgart, Berlin, Köln, Mainz 1972, p.162.
- [1.3] An unnamed source that chronicled the history of the Reichenbach community towards the end of the 19th century, stated that at the end of the 1840s it was comprised of 22 Reform community members who insisted that religious services be accompanied by psalms performed by a choir, and that its prayers should be conducted in German. Since the elder members of the community opposed this idea, the community split, with the Orthodox led by the Cantor Löbel Naphtali keeping the prayer house and other community assets, while the reformers invited Heinrich Schwarz to lead them. (Koch W. J., Martin Nordegg: The Uncommon Immigrant, Brightest Pebble Publishing Co. Ltd., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 1997, p. 22). The testimony of that source has been discovered in documents that, according to the author's version, miraculously survived the Nazi years and found their way into the archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints of Salt Lake City, Utah State, USA. My efforts to trace them proved unsuccessful.
- [1.4] A Catholic order founded in the 11th century in Jerusalem to provide help for the poor and sick, later on became a militant order for knights and nobles. The order helps nowadays those oppressed all over the world irrespective of race or religion.
- [1.5] Dr. Anna Grużlewska, historian of the Jews in Reichenbach, kindly forwarded me her article Dzierżoniowska synagoga – świadek historii żydowskiej, and replied to my enquiries.
- [1.6] Ibid. In another place she stated that in the first half of the 19th century the congregation had not owned a building for religious services and that in 1851 a prayer room was opened on Breslaustrasse. (Od asymilacji do wykluczenia: społeczność żydowska w Dzierżoniówie (1870–1944) [in] Dzierżoniów – wiek miniony, Materiały pokonferencyjne, ed. Ligarski S., Przerwa T., IPN, Wrocław 2007, p. 13); Architect Dr. Piotr Kmiecik, who had researched the architecture of the town in the 19th century, confirmed the existence of the prayer room since 1851. He noticed also that the last prayer in the "Old Synagogue" took place on 7 March 1853. (Email, 25 March 2015)
- [1.7] Brilling, op. cit., p. 163, footnote 7.
- [1.8] Ibid, op. cit., p. 19.
- [1.9] https://sztetl.org.pl/en/towns/d/212-dzierzoniow/99-history/137273-history-of-community
- [1.10] The original document and its translation: Leo Baeck Institute, AR 450.
- [1.11] Koch W. J., Martin Nordegg: The Uncommon Immigrant, Brightest Pebble Publishing Co. Ltd., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 1997, p. 24.
- [1.12] Ibid, p. 26. (Julius was not mentioned in the book).
- [1.13] Ibid, p. 269.
- [1.14] The building was built in the fourteenth century and served as the seat of the city council. The Tower Hall was a remnant of the medieval town hall and the ceremony was related to a reconstruction project. (https://polska-org.pl/522638,Dzierzoniow,Ratusz.html)
- [1.15] Grużlewska, op. cit., p. 11.
- [1.1.9] https://sztetl.org.pl/en/towns/d/212-dzierzoniow/99-history/137273-history-of-community
- [1.1.15] Grużlewska, op. cit., p. 11.
- [1.16] Haase E., Chronik der Stadt Reichenbach im Eulengebirge, "Reichenbacher Tageblatt”, 1929, p. 200.
- [1.17] Architect Piotr Kmiecik kindly provided me with this information.
- [1.18] Hasse, op. cit., p. 13.
- [1.19] Grygorcewicz B., Przemysł włókienniczy w Dzierżonowie: dwa początki [in] Dzierżoniów – wiek miniony, op. cit.
- [1.20] Wiatrowski, Żyga, op. cit., pp. 13-14.
- [1.21] https://sztetl.org.pl/pl/miejscowosci/d/212-dzierzoniow/100-demografia/20701-demografia
- [1.22] Wiatrowski, Żyga, op. cit., p. 21.
- [1.23] Grygorcewicz, op. cit., p. 160.
- [1.24] Haase, op. cit., p. 227.
- [1.25] In 1892 appeared the play "Die Weber" (The Weavers), by Gerhart Hauptmann, which described sympathetically the Silesian weavers uprising in Peterswaldau, in 1844, against their harsh living and working conditions under industrial capitalism. The play was translated to Yiddish by Pinchas Goldhar.
- [1.26] Ibid.
- [1.27] Grużlewska A., Fabryka “A. Fleischer G.m.b.H.” w Dzierżoniowie, [in] Bibliotheca Bielaviana 2011, Wrocław–Bielawa 2012, p. 13.
- [1.28] Hasse, op. cit., pp. 242-243.
- [1.29] Grużlewska A., Fabryka „Cohn Gebrüder” – funkcjonowanie przedsiębiorstwa na przełomie XIX i XX w., [in] Bibliotheca Bielaviana 2010, Wrocław–Bielawa 2011, p. 5. (The author handed me kindly the manuscript of the article).
- [1.30] Ibid, pp. 6-7.
- [1.31] Ueberlebt in Berlin 1941–1945, Leo Baeck Institute, ME 565.
- [1.32] Grużlewska, "Cohn Gebrüder", op. cit., p. 14.
- [1.33] Grygorcewicz, op. cit.
- [1.34] Alberto Weyl Collection, Leo Baeck Institute, AR 91.
- [1.35] Another version states that he committed suicide. See below 1.63.
- [1.36] Alexander Fleischer Family Collection, Leo Baeck Institute, AR 3641. Hans, who studied textile and worked in the family business, fled Reichenbach for England, in January 1939, and in July 1940, along with another 2,000 German Jewish prisoners, was taken under guard on a ship that sailed to Australia. There he was put under arrest for two years and then drafted into military service. Upon his release he managed to build a new life for himself under the name of John Fletcher. Hildergard married a German Baron, a Catholic, who received the Church confirmation under the condition that their children would grow up as Catholics. During the war, her husband and two children remained in Germany, while she fled to France and spent the war years with a false identity of a dead French woman. After the war she joined her son: both migrated to the United States but returned later to Germany. (Private memoir: Family History, by Peter K. Weyl, grandson of Willy Fleischer and son of Else Weyl; the manuscript was kindly forwarded to me by his daughter, Ruth W. Geall)
- [1.37] The difference may derive from the fact that the first date indicated the company's registration while the second was the actual date the business was set up.
- [1.38] Testimony of Else Weyl, daughter of Willy Fleischer and older sister of Hildergard, Ueberlebt in Berlin 1941–1945, ME 565, op. cit.
- [1.39] Grużlewska, Fabryka “A. Fleischer G.m.b.H.” w Dzierżoniowie, op. cit., pp. 15-16.
- [1.40] Ibid, p. 18.
- [1.41] Alexander Fleischer Family Collection, AR 3641, op. cit.
- [1.42] Grygorcewicz, op. cit., p. 162.
- [1.43] Grużlewska, "A. Fleischer G.m.b.H", op. cit., pp. 22-23.
- [1.44] Weyl, Family History, op. cit.
- [1.45] Grużlewska, "A. Fleischer G.m.b.H", op. cit., p. 23.
- [1.46] Ibid, p. 24.
- [1.47] Grużlewska, Od asymilacji do wykluczenia: społeczność żydowska w Dzierżoniowie (1870-1944), op. cit. p. 20.
- [1.48] Felix Danzinger, one of the Jewish community leaders in the beginning of the 1930s, committed suicide, on 11 May 1939, due to the ongoing oppressions. (Grużlewska, Od asymilacji do wykluczenia: społeczność żydowska w Dzierżoniowie (1870–1944), [in] Dzierżoniów – wiek miniony, IPN, Wrocław, 2007, p. 21.)
- [1.49] Brilling, op. cit., pp. 19, 21.
- [1.50] In 1939 the population in Reichenbach was listed as 17 253; www.verwaltungsgeschichte.de/reichenbach
- [1.51] Ibid, p. 163.
- [1.52] When he passed away, on 16 February 1939, he was registered as Sigismund Izrael Karlsberg. The supplement of "Izrael" was a must imposed upon men, since August 1938, in order to identify their origin. "Sara" was the supplement for the women. (Grużlewska, Od asymilacji do wykluczenia..., p. 19.)
- [1.53] Ibid, p. 16.
- [1.54] Fiedor K., Dolny Śląsk w świetle dokumentów niemieckich z lat 1926–1939, Ossolineum, Wrocław 1963, pp. 12, 26-27.
- [1.55] The Kaminski's got the place of an old woman, Paula Zellner, who went to live to another town. (Recalls Susi Klein (neé Kaminski), the last known living of those years).
- [1.56] Suzi Klein, kindly provided me with her personal written reminiscences (January–February 2016).
- [1.57] Grużlewska, Od asymilacji…, op. cit., p. 17.
- [1.58] According to Klein, her brother Heinz attended the elementary Protestant School, close to the Church on Schweidnitzerstrasse, as there was no Jewish school. It should have been the school attended by Klaus Weyl too. Both celebrated their Bar Mitzvah's in the synagogue: Klaus, in May 1937 and Heinz, in April 1938; Felix Danziger attended the ceremony of Klaus and signed on his Bible, whereas at Heinz festivity were present Rabbies Heidenfeld and Rosenthal.
- [1.59] (Testimony of Else Weyl, op. cit.). According to Else Weyl, "So it happened that our plans went all the way up to Goering who approved the building permit."(?!) It sounds a very strange statement: without any comments and in the absence of any other background source, it must be considered completely a nonsense to assume that the second man in the Nazi hierarchy could be involved in such a meaningless matter. The only possible hypothesis is that it might be somehow connected to the life-story of Else's aunt, Elizabeth, sister of her father Willy Fleischer: Elizabeth was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church before she married Peter Argutinsky, a pediatrician and a Russian aristocrat in the early twentieth century. After his death, she moved to his large estate near Tbilisi, Georgia, and lived there during the First World War. German prisoners of war, who stayed in a nearby site, were allowed to work on the estate during the day. One of the imprisoned officers she struck up a friendship with was Heinrich von Ficker. As a scientist in the field of meteorology, he would serve in the 1920s and 1930s as a professor at the University of Berlin, during which he also was director of the Prussian Meteorological Institute. In those years Elizabeth lived in Berlin. Ficker was connected in his professional capacity to the Luftwaffe, commanded by Hermann Goering. Elizabeth Argutinsky asked for and received Ficker’s help when she was due to be deportend in 1942. Elizabeth believed and told her family that it was Ficker that ensured she went to Theresienstadt concentration camp and, unlike many prisoners there, survived not being sent on to Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen. Elizabeth also believed that Ficker was able to help her because of his professional relationship with Goering. It is not known, and seems quite unlikely that Elizabeth would have asked Ficker, and then he Goering, about the synagogue; but this is the only other known reference to Goering made by the Fleischer family. (source: Ruth W. Geall)
- [1.60] Susi Klein, who as said lived with her family in the synagogue, recalls neither the mentioned events nor the persons. Therefore, it could not be ruled out that these events actually took place at one of the local wealthy Jews houses.
- [1.61] Klein noted that Julius Beer was taken into custody by the Germans, released and later hanged himself. He was buried by Konrad Springer in the attendance of those boys, who also said Kaddish after him in the absence of a Minyan (a quorum of ten men required for traditional Jewish public worship).
- [1.62] Grużlewska, Dzierżoniowska synagoga – świadek historii żydowskiej, op. cit.
- [1.63] Koch J., The Jewish community of Reichenbach / Dzierżoniów [online] http://synagogarutika.com/en/history/jewish-community/ [accessed: 23.01.2019].
- [1.64] Christopher Frey (email, 8 April 2016).
- [1.65] (a) Grużlewska, Dzierżoniowska synagoga – świadek historii żydowskiej, op. cit. (b) In the epilogue of Erich Haase’s book, published in 1929, wrote Hans Hilbich on the life in Reichenbach since then till after WWII. Commenting on the Kristallnacht, he stated: "The next day the windows of a textile shop at the center of the square were shattered; on the fate of the Jewish families in Reichenbach I know nothing. The synagogue on Trankstrasse was not destroyed, but later was used for other purposes ..." (p. 369) (c) Christopher Frey (Ruhr-Universität Bochum) remembers, that in 1944 within the synagogue operated an office which administered the food stamps allocation for the local residents. (email, 6 November 2012)
- [1.66] Jonca K., Etapy polityki rasistowskiej w Trzeciej Rzeszy: (ze szczególnym uwzględnieniem Śląska) [in] Dzieje Najnowsze, Rocznik XVIII-1986, z. 3-4, p. 181.
- [1.67] Połomski F., Deportacje Żydów z Dolnego Śląska w latach 1941-1944. Próba rekonstrukcji. [in] Z dziejów ludności żydowskiej na Śląsku, ed. Matwijowski K., Wrocław 1991, p. 119.
- [1.68] Ibid, p. 91.
- [1.69] www.xn--jdische-gemeinden-22b.de/index.php/gemeinden/p-r/1638-reichenbach-eulengebirge-schlesien
- [1.70] Kobielec A., Więźniowie Żydzi w KL Gross-Rosen, (Stan Badań), Państwowe Muzeum Gross-Rosen, 1993, pp. 5-7.
- [1.71] Siebel-Achenbach S., Lower Silesia from Nazi Germany to Communist Poland, 1942-49, St. Martin’s Press, 1994, p. 23.
- [1.72] Kobielec, op. cit., p. 10.
- [1.73] Pawlak K., Obozy pracy przymusowej I filie KL Gross-Rosen położone na Ziemi Dzierżoniowskiej, [in] Dzierżoniów – wiek miniony, op. cit., p. 264.
- [1.74] Ibid, p. 268.
- [1.75] Jarowicki S., Żydzi w Dzierżoniowie w latach 1930–1960, „Rocznik Dzierżoniowski”, 1992, pp. 18-19.
- [1.76] Ibid, p. 20.
- [1.77] Pawlak, op. cit., p. 266.
- [1.78] Jarowicki, op. cit., p. 19.
- [1.79] „Wszyscy krawcy wyjechali. O Żydach w PRL” – z Natalią Aleksiun i Dariuszem Stolą rozmawia Barbara Polak, Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej, nr 11 (58), 2005, p. 13.
- [1.1.21] https://sztetl.org.pl/pl/miejscowosci/d/212-dzierzoniow/100-demografia/20701-demografia